Only 345 appeals-(eight percent) of 4,630 appeals at the Appellate Court in Lagos have been scheduled for a hearing.
The 345 comprise 289 commercial; 10 human rights; and 46 criminal appeals.
The President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) Justice Monica B. Dongban-Mensem said
No fewer than 4,630 appeals and 6,207 motions are pending at the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.
Dongban-Mensem spoke on Monday while opening the maiden Working Retreat and Annual Conference of the Justices of the Court of Appeal, holding between December 7-10, with the Theme: Court of Appeal: Challenges & the way forward.
She pledged her determination to decongest the court, adding that it would no longer be allowed to become a dumping ground.
The Retreat consists of special court sessions involving 23 Special Appellate Panels, which will sit in batches of six Special Panels on the designated days between 9 am and noon daily.
“Each panel will hear about 15 ripe appeals with five panels sitting at five designated Court rooms of the National Industrial Court, Ikoyi and one panel at Court 1 of the Court of Appeal here in Lagos Division, the PCA said.
Decongestion exercises, she explained, would be routine in Lagos and the court’s other divisions until the backlog is greatly reduced.
Dongban- Mensem stated that on assumption of office, she discovered that majority of these Appeals, “had either been abandoned or purposely left to linger endlessly by mischievous and flippant actors in the litigation process.
“It is also regrettable to note that a good number of these appeals were filed with the aim of stalling the judicial process. This situation must certainly not be allowed to continue. We have come out to demonstrate our abhorrence by taking the bull by the horn.”
The PCA expressed hope that the retreat would send a warning to the public that the court will no longer be a dumping ground for those who seek to hamper justice delivery in Nigeria.
“We are presently 70 in number, 20 less than the statutory requirement of 90 Justices of the Court of Appeal. It is also hoped that these special sittings will promote the collegiate spirit, which the court is renowned for. Thirdly, our actions this week will afford us all a chance to discuss various aspects of our work, health, and wellbeing.”
“It is my desire and expectation that under my stewardship, delays in the hearing of Appeals will become a thing of the past, not just in Lagos Division but also in other divisions of the Court of Appeal,” she said.
Dongban-Mensem added: “Also incorporated in these special sessions are enlightening and educative presentations from erudite and educative personalities and professionals such as Mrs. Folake Solanke, SAN, who is the first woman to attain the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria as well as being among the first indigenous publishers of a Law Report in Nigeria. We especially thank the Learned Silk, who at 88 years of age is present to make a presentation to us, despite the risks to her health arising from the COVID 19 Pandemic.”
Prof Taiwo Osipitan SAN, who represented the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, called for the review of the qualifications of senior advocates, stating that most of the frivolious applications at the Appeal Court were being filed by lawyers in order to meet with the prerequisite to becoming a member of the inner bar.